Heating Assistance in Danger of Running Out

Agencies which render heating assistance in Massachusetts are calling on state and federal legislators for additional funding. They say funds for low income residents who heat with oil are running low. And they could be left out in the cold if more money is not secured.  The Valley Opportunity Council grants heating assistance to 16,000 households in Hampden County outside of Springfield. Its Energy Director,   Gail Pisacane, says low income residents heating with oil are using up their benefits quickly due to its high price. The prospect for additional funding is bleak.  She says her agency and similar groups across Massachusetts have not received any funding from the state this year. They are calling on lawmakers to consider making funds available. Pisacane says the Council has not received all of the federal dollars it has been allocated and possible steep budget cuts might take money away for fuel assistance altogether.

“It’s highly conceivable that we will not receive that additional funding even though we had established the benefit levels based on a projected funding we had been promised a few months back.”

Those who have exhausted their benefits can turn to non-profit groups such as Citizens Energy for further help. Pisacane says these agencies do not work on an emergency basis and heating assistance sometimes takes weeks to obtain. She says in the meantime, things could be difficult for low-income households.

“They may very well be left out in the cold. we worry about those people on a daily basis. But there’s just nothing we can do about it. There’s no money out there and no place to send them.”

The Valley Opportunity Council has seen an increase this winter from those asking for help who heat with oil. The price of home heating oil on the open market is nearly 4 dollars a gallon.